Downstream Casino Resort-Quapaw, OK Recap
Swim Instructor Stays Afloat with $100K HPT Championship
Quapaw, OK – Swimming instructor Michael Jensen was drowning in chips at Downstream Casino Resort Sunday night during the taping of Heartland Poker Tour. The 27-year-old from Overland Park, Kansas was the chip leader throughout the day as the field of 333 whittled to six for the televised final table. With ace-jack against ace-jack, his jack of diamonds played to edge out runner-up A.P. Phahurat when all diamonds appeared on the board. He now has $100,034 to keep him afloat.
Celebrating will have to wait for the part-time poker pro. “Whether I finish sixth or first, I’m teaching swimming lessons to little kids tomorrow afternoon” he said just before HPT’s Jaymz Larson called for the cards to fly at the final table.
In contrast, college student Phahurat’s only plan for his second-place prize money is to throw a party with a couple of buddies. With a budget of $46,789, the celebration is sure to be the party of the year at Oklahoma State, where the 21-year-old studies business marketing.
Daniel Sun of Cedar Rapids, Iowa owes a party to the poker buddy who convinced him to take a road trip for the tourney. “He dragged me here,” said Sun, “but I’m glad he did.” Sun plays HPT events in his home state but his luck improved when he crossed state lines and made the final table for the first time. “I drove eight hours through bad weather to get here, I’m ready to win,” the 28-year-old database programmer said just before taping. With ace-six against king-three, a king on the flop sent him back on the road with $21,835 in fourth place.
HPT has built a loyal following since first hitting the air in 2005. Producers saw many familiar faces at Downstream, including tour regulars Darvin Moon and Bernard Lee. Moon gained fame in 2009 when he turned $130 into $5.18 million as the runner-up in the World Series of Poker Main Event. Lee, co-host ofESPN Inside Deal, also found himself in the spotlight after success at the WSOP, finishing 13th in 2005. Over the weekend at Downstream, Lee got knocked out in day two, while Moon survived late into day one.
Steve Sanders also got attention at the WSOP in 2009, but not from winning big. The Tulsa, Oklahoma RV park owner took a cab to a Vegas hospital after getting knocked out by pro Dennis Phillips. Diagnosed with an aneurism, the knockout essentially saved his life as he arrived at the ER just in time for doctors to intervene. “Every day since has been a gift,” said the 64-year-old. Sanders is making the most of his second chance at life. Just a week before finishing third on HPT for $28,073, he won the Oklahoma State Championship for $26,000.
HPT’s visit to Oklahoma came at a good time for sixth-place finisher Brad Yazell. Considering a return to professional poker after getting laid off from his job two weeks ago, Yazell invested just $125 in the weekend tournament. The 37-year-old financed his college education through poker years ago, eventually working as a respiratory therapist before recent cuts. With ace-king against king-king, the Springfield, Missouri man walked away with $15,596 to get him restarted. Collecting his pay, he said, “It’s a nice day at work.”
David Douglas of Springfield, Missouri had one job to do Sunday night: to out-do his big brother Don who finished fifth at HPT’s Downstream stop a year ago. “I taught him a lot of what he knows,” the younger Douglas joked, yet got some brotherly advice for his first televised table. “Don told me to stay calm and not let the lights and cameras get to me.”
The 40-year-old software engineer calmly collected $18,716, a few thousand more than his brother won last year, as finishing fifth became the new family tradition.
“I’m sure we’ll be back playing the HPT to see who is the better poker player,” said the younger Douglas. HPT heads next to Minnesota March 13-20th.